But just when WRC regulars thought the Leon-based round couldn’t get any more demanding, organisers have added to the task with the inclusion of a 55-kilometre monster test on the final morning of this hugely popular rally.
The expanded Guanajuatito stage is not the only change for 2012, however, with new stages and a greater overall distance all included, not to mention the world championship’s first Qualifying Stage on gravel.
Scheduled for the morning of Thursday March 8 the fastest WRC drivers over the 5.18-kilometre timed stage will be able to select their starting positions for Friday’s loose-surface stages. With running order likely to help determine the outcome of the event, the Qualifying Stage promises to be an exciting spectacle.
While the rally’s format has undergone several tweaks, the rock-strewn tracks, high ambient temperatures and altitudes will continue to provide the main challenge for the WRC brigade on their first of two visits to the American continent during the season.
A new addition to the WRC schedule in 2004, the rally is famed for its compact route and spectacular ceremonial start in the city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The start regularly attracts thousands of fans who will again get to relish an extra treat this year with the DC Shoes Guanajuato Street Stage.
Measuring a little more than one kilometre in length, the stage will run through tunnels and high wall-lined cobbled streets.
But it’s the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains that will continue to host the bulk of the stage action. The high-altitude tests make for spectacular viewing with a mixture of mountain peaks and flat open valleys. But the altitude has its downside, however, as the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of approximately 20 per cent.
The road surface on Rally Mexico is dry and sandy, but with rocks getting pulled onto the stages caution is very much the watchword.
Like Guanajuato, Leon will also host a street stage on a temporary course close to the indoor service park at the city’s Poliforum exhibition centre. A superspecial at Leon’s racing circuit will be also used five times.
The route changes have increased the total competitive distance from the 364.81 covered in 2011 to 407.87 in 2012 with the number of stages rising from 22 to 24.
Next page: So who’s going to win?